Minnesota Vikings: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 17

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Minnesota Vikings: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 17
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The last football game to be played in the Metrodome in 2013 is meaningless. The end of the Minnesota Vikings' disappointing season concludes with a game against the disappointing Detroit Lions.

The Lions come into the Metrodome to finish off what is perhaps an even more discouraging season. Having lost five of their last six games, they were eliminated from the playoffs following their overtime loss to the Giants at home last week. 

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For the Vikings, they have made the most of their second chances. The first time through the NFC North they were 0-3 against the Lions, Bears and Packers, losing by an average score of 36-28. The second time around against division opponents, they have played much better. They tied the Packers 26-26 in Week 12 at Lambeau Field and beat the Bears in Week 13 at home 23-20 in overtime.

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If the trend continues, the Vikings should be good for their fifth win of the season. They might have a huge advantage over the Lions. The Vikings have been playing meaningless games for most of the season, while the Lions were just knocked out of the division race just last week.   

It also looks like a game between two lame-duck coaches, as both Leslie Frazier and Jim Schwartz are both expected to be fired after the season. In fact, according to a report from MLive, Schwartz was almost fired last season. 

 

Division Standings

For most of the season, this has been a three-team battle for the division lead. The Lions' loss to the New York Giants last week finally eliminated them from the mix, leaving the division to be decided by the longest-standing rivalry in the NFL

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Chicago Bears have a 92-87-6 record against the Green Bay Packers.

The game between the Packers and Bears is just what the NFL was hoping for when they scheduled divisional games for Week 17.  The winner takes the NFC North and earns a playoff berth.  

NFC North
Team Wins Losses Ties Week 17 Opponent
Chicago Bears 8 7 0 vs. Packers
Green Bay Packers 7 7 1 @ Bears
Detroit Lions 7 8 0 @ Vikings
Minnesota Vikings 4 10 1 vs. Lions

Pro Football Reference

With the winner of the division finishing with no more than nine wins, the NFC North is one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.

  

Injury Report

It has been a tough year for the Vikings. It would be great if their injury report correlated to the less-than-stellar performance on the field, but a 1-3 start to open the season indicates otherwise.

The Vikings close out the season without their top two cornerbacks and their top-two tight ends.  They have started games with their third-string running back (Matt Asiata) and with a starting middle linebacker who had been waived only a couple of weeks earlier (Audie Cole).      

Minnesota Vikings Injury Report
Player Position Injury Status Games Missed
Greg Childs WR knee on the PUP list 15
Zach Line FB knee Injured Reserve 12
Desmond Bishop LB knee Injured Reserve 11
Harrison Smith S Toe Probable 8
Kyle Rudolph TE foot Injured Reserve 7
Josh Robinson CB chest Injured Reserve 5
Chris Cook CB knee Probable 4
John Carlson TE concussion Injured Reserve 2
Xavier Rhodes CB ankle Questionable 2
Matt Asiata RB ankle Questionable 1
Brandon Fusco OG knee Probable 1
Toby Gerhart RB hamstring Probable 1
Adrian Peterson RB groin/foot Questionable 1
Audie Cole LB leg Questionable 0
Chad Greenway LB wrist Probable 0
Cullen Loeffler LS hand Probable 0
Marcus Sherels CB shoulder Probable 0

Pro Football Reference / Vikings.com

Out of necessity, the Vikings have promoted six players—some of them multiple times—from the practice squad to the active roster.  With a limit of eight players, the Vikings' practice squad has had as much turnover as the starting quarterback position.     

Vikings' Players Promoted from the Practice Squad in 2013
Player Position Date
Rodney Smith WR 10/17/2013
Chase Ford TE 10/26/2013
Kevin Murphy OT 11/7/2013
Joe Banyard RB 12/14/2013
Robert Steeples CB 12/14/2013
Justin Trattou DE 12/21/2013

Vikings.com

 

What Must Improve

The easy answer as to what must improve for the Minnesota Vikings is everything—but what needs to improve the most is the Vikings' pass defense.   

Statistically, they have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. 

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Rakings
Category Result Ranking
Passing yards allowed 294.3 yd/game 32nd
Passing TD allowed 36 32nd
Scoring 31.1 points/game 32nd
Sacks 36 19th
Rushing yards allowed 113.7 18th

Stat Milk / NFL.com

This offseason, the Vikings will need to find answers at cornerback, linebacker and defensive end. As pointed out above, injuries have decimated the cornerback position, but age seems to have taken its toll on the defensive line. 

The Vikings need to find some youth and depth this offseason for the defense. 

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
Sunday could be Jared Allen's last game as a Minnesota Viking.

Defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackles Kevin Williams, both set to be free agents after Sunday's game against Detroit, will be 32 and 34 next season, respectively. Linebacker Chad Greenway will turn 31. 

For Sunday's season finale against the Lions, the Vikings will need to find a way to contain wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who is second in the NFL with 1,492 receiving yards.  

They will also need to find a way to limit the production of running back Reggie Bush, who had 191 combined yards against the Vikings in Week 1. He finished with 90 rushing yards on 21 carries and 101 receiving yards on four catches.

Having a plan to defend the screen pass, would go a long way to accomplishing that. 

Leon Halip/Getty Images

 

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